After growing up watching comedians like Conan O’Brien, Johnny Carson, and David Letterman, Barrett Jourdan, a sophomore Film/Media and Political Science major, applied of his love of comedy and improv performance by creating “Barrett Tonight,” a production stylized similarly to a late-night talk show.
“Barrett Tonight” features Jourdan as the show’s host, where he tells topical jokes, interviews student leaders, and features musical guests, such as on-campus bands or local talent. The show has also included interactive segments, such as “Quadversations,” where Jourdan would walk around the quad and ask students humorous questions. Produced, written and edited by Jourdan, “Barrett Tonight” is currently in its second season, and he plans to produce a season for every year of his college career.
“When I arrived at URI last year, the one thing I knew I wanted to do was join an improv comedy group, but I couldn’t find anything I was interested in,” Jourdan said. “I was introduced to URI TV Network, and was told that they didn’t have many scripted shows. I pitched URI TV my idea for the show, and by the third week of my freshman year, a pilot of ‘Barrett Tonight’ was aired on the network. I’ve been making episodes of ‘Barrett Tonight’ ever since.”
According to Jourdan, his love of comedy stems from his father, who introduced him to Monty Python movies at a young age. From there, he went on to watch Johnny Carson and Conan O’Brien, but the most memorable parts of his childhood, Jourdan said, were his attempts to stay up late and watch “Saturday Night Live.” While he has been engaged in improv skits and working in front of a camera before his arrival at URI, the most rewarding aspect of producing “Barrett Tonight,” according to Jourdan, is having the opportunity to engage in a late-night talk show style of comedy.
“The feedback I’ve received from ‘Barrett Tonight’ has been amazing,” Jourdan said. “This has been a huge personal accomplishment for me, and I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do. This has been my chance to try to be a Carson or Conan O’Brien, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”
Producing a 30-minute episode biweekly has been challenging, according to Jourdan. Besides Jourdan, “Barrett Tonight” has only one other student working on the production consistently: Kody Fraser, the president of URI TV Network. Besides Jourdan and Fraser, volunteer students from URI TV Network may help, but there are no other full-time staff members that work to produce the show. According to Jourdan, producing “Barrett Tonight” has taught him the importance of collaboration in the TV industry.
“The whole medium is very collaborative. I’ve noticed how hard it is to do things by yourself,” Jourdan said. “Almost everything I’ve done with ‘Barrett Tonight’ is thanks to the volunteer students who have helped me. But even when you have help, you really need to be driven to do anything with comedy or entertainment. It’s very easy to get side-tracked with other things.”
As a URI 101 mentor, a member of the Student Alumni Association, and a summer orientation leader, Jourdan has learned how to manage his time wisely and not get side-tracked from his responsibilities. However, despite the myriad of activities he is involved in on campus, Jourdan cites “Barrett Tonight” as the one accomplishment that drives him professionally, which leads him to think of bigger, more ambitious goals for future episodes of the program. One of Jourdan’s goals for “Barrett Tonight” is to produce a live show, where URI students will be invited into the audience.
“When you do something live, there’s a lot more opportunities to do improv jokes,” Jourdan said. “Normally, when we’re shooting ‘Barrett Tonight,’ it’s me and the guy in the back filming, and it’s hard to play off of people when there’s no audience. Being able to test out my jokes in front of a live audience will tell me whether the jokes will fall flat or not.”
According to Jourdan, whether or not a comedian’s jokes can resonate with their audience determines how well said comedian is doing their job. The importance of comedy, said Jourdan, lies not just in the comedian’s ability to get the audience to laugh, but in their ability to provide an escape for the audience from the seriousness of day-to-day life.
“I think comedy can be served as a vessel that can bring people away from the stresses of normal life,” said Jourdan. “Conan O’Brien once said, ‘If you laugh every time you fall down, people will just think you’re drunk.’ I’ve always taken it to mean that if you’re able to laugh at yourself or just the world, it makes the trials of life go by easier.”
By: Kimberly DeLande